Vanessa Hudgens explains her soul connection with J-Lo and the importance of having strong women in your life

'We can be in it to win it but we should be supporting each other'

Second Act is hitting cinemas this week, undoubtedly set to become the feel-good film of the season.

The high fashion office wear and career inspiration make this a millennial must-see, but it’s the two strong female leads, coming in the form of Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens, that make it a really important watch.

‘I think it’s great for women of all ages,’ Vanessa Hudgens told Marie Claire‘s Jenny Proudfoot. ‘I think that you’ll leave the film feeling inspired to reassess and go after what you really want and know that you aren’t a victim to your life. You are in control of it. And you decide how you live it.’

This is the film’s chief takeaway – a huge dose of career inspiration and an example of why women should support other women.

Jenny Proudfoot sat down with the lovely Vanessa Hudgens to talk all things Second Act, her surreal connection with J-Lo and why we should all surround ourselves with strong women on (and off) screen.

Vanessa Hudgens

What was your first impression when you read the script?

I mean, my biggest thing reading the script at the beginning was, ‘Oh my gosh – Jennifer Lopez is going to crush this role and I want to watch her doing it.’ I grew up with her films. I remember watching The Wedding Planner over and over again and how charming she was and I was just so excited to see what she was going to do with this script because it’s so well-written and supportive of women.

Were you nervous meeting Jennifer Lopez?

I had met her once before in passing, and I was just really excited to have the opportunity to work with her in the room, and once we did our read together we connected in a way that was kind of crazy. Every now and then I feel like you meet people that you feel a soul connection to. It’s kind of weird and unexplainable but it’s a very real thing and you just feel it. That’s what happened with us. I remember calling my boyfriend afterwards and going, ‘Babe – even if I don’t get this part, I am so grateful for the experience that I just had because me and Jennifer connected on such a deep, real level that it just felt magical’. We read the big emotional scene. There were lots of tears between the two of us which I guess is what made it so special. It was emotional for me but it was also emotional for her. And afterwards she apparently said that she wanted me. I mean, only she can vouch for that but I feel like because our connection was so real, it just felt like it was right.

Do you hope this film will push women to boost each other up in business?

Yes. I think that it’s something that is really special and important. I feel that it’s such a sensitive time right now that women are really afraid of stepping on someone else’s toes, and it just goes to show with this – it’s ok as long as there is motive to support each other. We can be in it to win it but we should be supporting each other. I have always surrounded myself with strong women – I 100% think that who you are is a reflection of the people that you surround yourself with. It’s so important to be surrounded by people that challenge you and lift you up and are always there for you. I think it’s so important – that’s why my friendship group is so small!

Second Act film

What’s your top career advice?

I think people should lean into their interests. I feel as though we are at a point where it’s like “Work hard, go after what you want and be focused on that”. While that’s very true, it can give you tunnel vision and you lose sight of what brings you joy. It’s most important to lean into your interests – especially as an artist. I feel that there’s no right or wrong direction. Just follow your bliss and fully lean into it.

What career advice did Jennifer give you on-set?

Jennifer says herself that she loves being a mentor. She has been in this industry for so long and she knows the ropes – she has kind of done it all. So we would talk about trajectory and image and stuff like that. I mean, she was just super open with me and was down to talk about whatever.

What was your favourite scene that you filmed together?

It is really random. There was one scene when we were walking through Central Park together around the big classic Central Park fountain while we were filming in New York. It was a walk and talk scene and at one point it literally felt like someone had turned on a massive fan and put leaves in front of it. There were just leaves blowing all around us. But no, it was just Mother Nature doing her thing. And I remember looking up at Jennifer and looking around at Central Park and all these leaves blowing and it was just one of those real life movie moments, which is so funny because it turned into a real life movie moment.

Did playing VP Zoe inspire a career change of your own?

I’m an actor because I love stepping into other people’s shoes and then I feel that I get to bring a part of that person into my own personal life. And I think that there was something very empowering about playing this character, being the VP of the beauty department and having authority and power in an office space. Granted, that was fun but I would not be down for an office job. I don’t think I would survive. I like pretending, but not in real life.

What was your favourite Second Act look?

Zoe’s wardrobe was really nice. I love the winter layering – like the big winter coats with the thick scarves – I felt like they were such statements and so chic. I do like A/W fashion and I definitely enjoy seasons for short stints of time, but being a native Californian – I just want the sun the whole time. I mean, I’ve literally just been complaining about how I want it to be summer so that I can wear a dress.

What is your pre-audition prep?

I went to an acting class and they said before you do any audition you owe it to yourself to feel your body. By doing that you lie down and breathe, take account where you’re holding tension and pick a colour and put that colour in that place of tension. You breathe into it and therefore walk into the room feeling centred and grounded and completely present, giving yourself the best shot of getting the job.

While Zoe doesn’t have a British accent, how did you nail Lady Margaret’s voice in The Princess Switch?

I had a dialect coach that I worked with religiously. I obviously listened to a couple of the royals but at the end of the day it was all about thinking how I would be as a Duchess and practicing it. I was very self conscious about it and it would get to the point where I would have to do it all the time – in real life as well – so it would start to feel less foreign to me. There would definitely be days where I would go around all day with a British accent to everyone, even my mother.

Second Act comes to UK cinemas on Friday 25 January.

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